Wikipedia On Mozilla

I recently read an article on Science Daily entitled: “Most Wikipedia Entries About Companies Contain Factual Errors”, which noted that companies often found it very hard to correct articles about themselves.

I noticed a while ago that there are several articles on Mozilla-related topics on Wikipedia which are out of date, poorly authored, uneven in coverage or all three. Some examples:

  • Mozilla: I cleaned up this article a bit in December, but it still needs further work – the order of items is chronological rather than in order of importance, and there are significant parts out of date (e.g. references to Minimo).
  • Mozilla Foundation: this page is quite accurate, but very incomplete. It says nothing about the Foundation’s most recent projects, the Webmakers initiative or the Mozilla Festival.
  • Mozilla Application Suite: this article is in the present rather than the past tense, suggesting that the Suite is still viable software.
  • SeaMonkey: this article contains far less detail than the Mozilla Application Suite article, despite being a current project.
  • Firefox: this is better than many, but has many “may be out of date” annotations, and needs someone familiar with Mozilla’s current doings to improve it.
  • Thunderbird: some good stuff but also a useless list of historical system requirements.

We’re a significant feature of the Internet and contemporary life, and we should have better quality coverage than this. Are there any Mozillians who are also Wikipedians who would like to form a “WikiProject Mozilla” or similar effort to clean these up? This is not a case of doing a few drive-by edits; that’s probably how the articles got the way they are now. It would need some commitment and proper sourcing and research. But it is important.

13 thoughts on “Wikipedia On Mozilla

  1. The “Mozilla” page should become a disambiguation page. It’s very unusual to have a page like that on Wikipedia.

  2. I think Wikipedia strongly recommends that people connected with an organisation or product do not edit Wikipedia entries for things they are connected to, to avoid their interest conflicting with the requirement to remain neutral. (In practice, it seems this recommendation is often not followed, and then articles get all kinds of flags on them.)

    So what you really need are Wikipedians who are not Mozillians, who can improve the content based on third party information. Otherwise people may as well look at Mozilla’s own web pages for the information.

  3. I don’t believe in neutrality – there’s no such thing. And the above policy, if literally followed, would result in the people best qualified to write an article being forbidden from doing so.

    However, I would be entirely happy if this ended up being other tech-savvy Wikipedians, assisted by Mozillians. Whatever. Let’s just get it fixed :-)

  4. Wikipedia has useful guidelines for handling potential conflicts of interest.

    When I edit a Mozilla-related article, I make sure I’m logged in, and take extra care to cite sources, and try to remember to include a COI note in my edit comment.

    Fixing article issues other than factual inaccuracies is harder. (For example, giving undue weight to ancient controversies.) Wikipedia’s guidelines suggest heavy use of talk pages, but I haven’t had much luck getting articles changed by commenting on talk pages.

  5. This could be a good project for people expressing interest in doing non-technical writing for Mozilla. We don’t have a great option to suggest for those types of potential contributors right now. Could be worth reaching out to Matej, the MoCo copywriter and one of the Stewards for the Creative team, about this.

    David

  6. “I don’t believe in neutrality”

    Unfortunately, what matters is what the Wikipedians believe and what the consequences are from violating the rules that are based on Wikipedian beliefs. It would be bad PR for Mozilla to get publicity for violating Wikipedia’s rules about editing articles about oneself. (Remember the bad PR Microsoft got from having a contractor edit Wikipedia articles about the office file formats.)

    The safe way to proceed is to edit the talk pages and catalog that the errors in the main article with references to other publications that allow people who know nothing about Mozilla verified the assertions that you make on the talk pages.

    “And the above policy, if literally followed, would result in the people best qualified to write an article being forbidden from doing so.”

    Yes! Wikipedia is not about experts writing about the stuff they know about. Wikipedia is a tertiary source where non-experts write about others writing about what people who actually know stuff have said.

    This annoying aspect to Wikipedia is articulated very well by John Syracusa in http://5by5.tv/hypercritical/52 . The follow-up is also relevant: http://5by5.tv/hypercritical/53

    • I agree that Wikipedia gets to set their policy for how their articles should be edited. I think their denial of reality in the case of the existence of neutrality leads to several unpleasant effects, but I agree that it’s not the right path forward to try and convince them of their mistake.

      I think people involved in the Mozilla community editing articles about Mozilla would be perceived differently to people at MS editing articles about file formats. (And the reason it’s different, actually, is because there is no neutrality…) We should take advantage of that anomaly, and Mozilla’s good reputation. Jesse’s comments on how to deal with potential conflict of interest (just approved out of the spam queue; sorry Jesse) are relevant here.

      I also think that attempting to reform these articles piecemeal via Talk page comments is not going to improve their overall quality. They need an editor. If we can find a non-Mozillian Wikipedian to do it, so much the better.

      • I think even people connected with the project can write “Wikipedia-neutral” articles (or sections of articles) about this project, if they write “statements of fact” (e.g. “SeaMonkey 2.9 was released on ”) rather than “statements of opinion” (e.g. “Firefox is a huge lot better than IE”).

      • Society in general and Wikipedia in particular treat money as a particular source of bias. People don’t get paid to be Canadians but many Mozillians are paid staff. Also, there’s a difference between J. Doe who is a feminist editing articles about feminism and e.g. Gloria Steinem editing articles about feminism.

        It’s probably more OK for someone who is a Mozillian but isn’t getting paid by Mozilla and who isn’t in a project leadership position to edit Wikipedia about Mozilla stuff than it is for someone who gets paid by Mozilla or who is in a project leadership position.

  7. > Mozilla Foundation: this page is quite accurate, but very incomplete.
    > It says nothing about the Foundation’s most recent projects, the
    > Webmakers initiative or the Mozilla Festival.

    Remember that Wikipedia is an encyclopedia — a tertiary source. Information on recent projects may simply not be available from (theoretically) disinterested third-party (ostensibly) reliable sources, simply because nobody has run a news story about them yet.

    This issue isn’t always treated entirely consistently (for example, articles about television programs routinely use the program itself as the main source), but for articles about companies and organizations it tends to be a good policy. It avoids things like having articles about fraudulent “fuel saver” products based on information from the fraudulent company’s own website. The editors take one look at such articles and nuke them for non-notability or lack of NPOV or both.

    Companies like Microsoft, of course, can still spread whatever information or disinformation they want, on account of the fact that the press happily jumps on anything they say, asks them questions about it, and turns it into a news story. This is unfortunate, but it’s a systemic societal issue and as such is clearly not something Wikipedia can solve.

    One of the most unfortunate things in the world is the way most of society handles the epistemological question. Wikipedia reflects that, as would be expected. Information that was printed in a newspaper is automatically considered reliable, for example. Yes, it’s a very strange worldview, but it’s a worldview held by most of the world. This is important to understand about Wikipedia, if you’re going to use it as a source of information about anything. Wikipedia reflects what regular, mostly-uninformed, average people think they know about everything (well, almost everything). It’s a useful resource, taken in that light.

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